Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shaken or Stirred?

The eternal question about one's Martini evokes James Bond but he was cool, stylish and had a purpose.  Today's young Lawyers don't have one ounce of that but they do apparently of the liquor that James, James Bond enjoyed.

When I read the results of this current "problem" I thought "well they know enough of their peers who will help them get out of jam should that arise."

I have no issue with the drinking but the reality is that this profession is the most judgmental about anyone else and their failings (yes pun intended) so while they swill their scotches I have to ask why they have the audacity to question anyone with disbelief or disregard?  And with that comes another query as to how is this affecting their jobs and their billings?  I can imagine more than one client picking up that tab for a hard night of drinks.

 The reality is that Attorneys hold themselves up as the arbiters of the law and of ethics.  It is as if their profession seemingly transcends humanity and all its failings.  I get the supercilious bullshit but what I don't get is the arrogance that accompanies it.  These people are in immense positions of power and they hold lives in their hands.  Oh sure many are just working stiffs who are just doing their jobs.  They aren't all bad!  Oh who I am kidding, Attorney's are assholes and they are drunk ones as well.  So much for fun drunk.

Drinking is a Problem for 1 in 3 Lawyers, Study Finds

Junior associates have highest rate of alcohol abuse.
, The National Law Journal
More than a third of practicing attorneys in the United States are problem drinkers and 28 percent struggle with depression, according to a new study conducted by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Researchers surveyed nearly 13,000 attorneys nationwide—to date the most comprehensive effort to quantify substance abuse and depression rates in the profession—and found that those problems are far more common among attorneys than other professionals.

For example, 15 percent of physicians and surgeons are problem drinkers based on the amount of alcohol they consume or the frequency they drink, compared to 36 percent of lawyers.

“This long overdue study clearly validates the widely held but empirically undersupported view that our profession faces truly significant challenges related to attorney well-being,” said Patrick Krill, an attorney who runs a substance-abuse treatment program for lawyers and judges at Hazelden and a co-author of the study. “Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people.”

The study, titled “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys,” appears in the February edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
Study co-author Linda Albert, a representative of the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance, called the numbers “disheartening,” but added that the new data should help leaders throughout the profession better address the problems of lawyer substance abuse and mental health.

Richard Carlton, the director of the State Bar of California’s Lawyer Assistance Program, said he hopes the study will generate more interest in the scope of these problems and lead to greater financial support for lawyer assistance programs across the country.

“I think it pretty much confirms what we suspected,” he said of the study’s findings. “The big change is that I’m constantly asked, ‘What does the data show in terms of these problems specific to lawyers?’ In the past I’ve had to say, ‘Well, there’s not much empirical data that’s current.’ ”

However, Carlton said he was surprised by the finding that attorneys with 10 years or less of experience had significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse than those with more experience. That directly contradicts a 1990 study that found rates of substance abuse increased in conjunction with professional experience.

According to the new study, nearly 29 percent of survey respondents in their first 10 years of practice qualified as problem drinkers, which dropped to less than 21 percent for those practicing between 11 and 20 years. More than 32 percent of lawyers under 30 qualify as problem drinkers, compared with 26 percent of lawyers between the ages of 31 and 40.

Among the 23 percent of survey respondents who said they believe their drinking is a problem, 27 percent said the problem began in law school, while another 44 percent said the problem emerged during their first 15 years in practice.

“Taken together, it is reasonable to surmise from these findings that being in the early stages of one's legal career is strongly correlated with a high risk of developing an alcohol use disorder,” the study reads.

Today’s young attorneys are facing increased pressure due to soaring educational debt and the difficult entry-level job market, said Patricia Spataro, director of the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program.

“The astronomical debt that they come out of law school with might be a factor,” she said. “They may feel they have to take whatever job they can get. They just have to start paying back those loans, and it becomes a desperate situation.”

Additionally, the reality of practicing law may not fit with the expectations—cultivated by television shows and movies—held by young lawyers, Spataro said.

In light of the new data, lawyer assistance programs should place more emphasis on intervening in the first 10 years of an attorney’s career, Krill said.

The study also examined substance abuse rates within different practice environments and found that attorneys working in private firms had the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Among those attorneys, junior associates reported the highest rate of problem drinking, followed by senior associates, then junior partners.

“That might point to the cultural nature of problem drinking,” Krill said. “When you’re at a law firm, you’re inculcated into that culture, with these coping mechanisms. Problem drinking is normalized within many law firms.”

Law firm attorneys are also encouraged to socialize with clients, which often involves alcohol, Krill noted.

Carlton said he is pleased the new study quantifies rates of depression and anxiety among attorneys—an area often overshadowed by alcohol and drug abuse. In addition to the 28 percent of attorneys who experience high or mild levels of depression, 19 percent reported experiencing anxiety, and 23 percent said they experience stress.

“Attorneys, law schools and law firms really need to get honest about these issues and get proactive,” Krill said. “Until they do that, lawyer assistance programs won’t be able to shoulder the load. We need a systemic response, and we now have the opportunity to make some meaningful progress on this issue.”

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